HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBLL: WEEK 1
Nick Hines cut toward the sideline and kicked into another gear as he sprinted for a 36-yard touchdown on the Knights’ first play of the game Friday against Pekin.
It only got better for the Knights, who defeated the Dragons, 40-21, at home to give first-year coach Roland Brown his first victory.
“I just tried not to screw anything up,” Brown said, laughing, when asked about getting his first win. “Overall, I’m pretty happy with our first game. We had a lot of young guys out there, and they played well.”
Junior running back Tevin Hicks scored the second touchdown for the Knights with 7:13 left in the first quarter when he busted through a hole in the middle for a 45-yard run.
Hicks, who had 143 yards rushing, also scored on a 6-yard run in the second half.
With 1:12 left in the first quarter, senior quarterback Michael Davis scored on a 9-yard run to give the Knights a 21-0 lead.
Davis hit senior receiver Peter Cunningham for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 6:40 left in the first half.
Cunningham grabbed the ball with one hand in the corner of the end zone, pulled it into his chest, and just barely kept his foot in bounds for the score.
“We run that play in practice a lot. We try to draw in their cornerback with our ‘belly’ formation, then that frees up the receiver,” Davis said. “I threw it a little too long, but Peter made a great catch.”
On Pekin’s next possession, junior defensive back Nate Taylor intercepted a pass and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown.
The Knights intercepted Pekin quarterback Colton Vinovich three times (Noah Moore and Josh Englebrecht also had interceptions), and limited him to just 78 passing yards.
Senior defensive back T.J. Cole, who deflected a few passes and stuck tight to the Pekin wide receivers, said the defense made it tough for Vinovich throughout the whole game.
“He (Vinovich) can pass and run with the ball, but we held in him check,” Cole said. “If we can deflect a pass, then that relieves the pressure on the rest of the defense.”
On offense, the Knights used six different running backs (Hicks, Hines, Robert Gibson, Corey Gulley, Tim Knuttel and Nate Mahrt). Davis played most of the game at quarterback, but Taylor also saw some action (four carries for 27 yards).
“It’s nice to have a few runners who can get the job done,” Brown said. “We’re still searching for the perfect lineup, but I like what I saw from everybody tonight.”
Englebrecht, who took over the kicking job after Matt Batton graduated, made three of five extra points and pinned the Dragons behind the 20-yard line on two kickoffs.
The Knights’ defensive line, which lost seven starters from last year, dominated the line of scrimmage.
Richwoods committed 11 penalties, but only had one turnover (a fumble on an errant option pitch by Davis in the fourth quarter).
“We got the win. Now we’ll work on getting better at some things,” Brown said.
NOTRE DAME WINS OPENER
Peoria Notre Dame football coach Tom Gullickson said he was pleased with his team’s effort, despite a couple “glitches,” after the Irish beat Limestone, 25-18, Saturday at Richwoods Stadium.
“We had a few penalties, and, for about a seven-minute period, we broke down and lost our focus,” he said. “But, you would expect those kinds of things to happen in your first game.”
Gullickson said senior Bob O’Brien played well in his first game as a starting quarterback.
“He kept his cool, and showed a lot of composure and leadership,” Gullickson said. “He didn’t have any fumbles and his two interceptions weren’t his fault.”
O’Brien completed one of three pass attempts. That one completion was a 30-yard touchdown to Sean Heinz.
“Sean is a big kid (6’4”). He just jumped over the defense and grabbed the ball, and then ran about 12 yards to the end zone,” Gullickson said.
Senior running back Mike Habecker, a quarterback last year, led the Irish with 160 yards rushing on 17 carries.
“He’s a senior captain who works hard,” Gullickson said. “But, it wasn’t just him. We have a few backs who can run the ball.” Senior Jake Heid had 71 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Luke Fiddes got the scoring started for Notre Dame, when he recovered a fumble in the end zone, but the Irish trailed, 18-13, at halftime.
Notre Dame scored twice in the fourth quarter on touchdown runs by Habecker and O’Brien.
“We were down, but we didn’t give up, and it paid off,” Gullickson said. “Now, we’re 1-0 and everybody is happy. But, we have to bear down in practice and focus on our next game.”
DUNLAP LOSES CLOSE GAME
Brett Cazalet will never say he is pleased with a loss, but he wasn’t upset either, after Dunlap lost to Galesburg, 32-27, Friday night.
“I’m not pleased, but I’m content,” said Cazalet, the first-year head coach of the Eagles. “We came out and battled and showed so much heart and determination against a big, fast, experienced team like Galesburg. I can’t complain about the effort.”
Cazalet said his players are still learning his system — on offense and defense — so there were expected ups and downs during the game.
“We showed spurts where we played well, then we had moments where it was clear that we need some more practice time,” he said.
Junior quarterback Logan Schrader completed 10 of 25 pas attempts for 176 yards and one touchdown.
Schrader led the Eagles down the field late in the fourth quarter to set up a Caleb Miller 8-yard touchdown run to give Dunlap a 27-25 lead, but Galesburg scored on its next possession to seal the victory.
“We executed really well on that drive,” Cazalet said. “At times, Logan showed how special he could be. Other times, he looked like a quarterback who is trying to learn a new system. That’s nothing against Logan. He did a great job. Everybody is trying to learn the system.”
Miller rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown in Cazalet’s new spread offense.
Junior kicker Blake Abbott made three field goals.
“Blake is a weapon I’m not used to having,” Cazalet said. “If we get into a field goal situation, it’s nice to know that we can send him out there. He puts in a lot of time, working on his kicks, and it paid off on Friday.”
Dunlap opens Mid-Illini Conference play Friday at home against Morton, which lost, 30-15, to Sterling Friday night.
“They (Morton) are similar to Galesburg. They are a run-first team,” Cazalet said. “So, we’ll see how much more prepared we are, after another week of practice ... We have a great group of kids here. They are working hard and getting better each day. My expectations get higher every week, and so do theirs. We’re looking forward to playing again Friday night.”